Now that Android has closed the feature gap it had with iOS, why is iOS still king of downloads?

By | May 29, 2014

Android has evolved and grown dramatically since its release in 2008. It is a feature-packed platform with over 1 million apps. Google has streamlined the software to run efficiently on lower end hardware and Android is completely dominating the scene in terms of market share. According to IDC it claimed a worldwide smartphone market share of 78.6% in 2013, compared to 15.2% for iOS.

That dominance doesn’t tell the whole story because Apple’s App Store continues to significantly outperform Google’s Play Store when it comes to revenue. According to Distimo’s 2013: Year in Review, the Apple App Store claimed 70% of all revenue back in June and that fell to 63% by November, while Google Play went from 30% to 37%. Although the Google Play Store’s share of the pie is rising, it’s worth remembering that the pie itself is still getting bigger, so this doesn’t represent a decline for Apple.

Born in the USA

To understand this disparity we have to look a little deeper. According to Kantar Worldpanel Apple claims 34.6% of the US market. In Europe Apple’s share is just 17.5%. Apple is as American as apple pie and it dominates the high-end of the market in the States. Recent Chitika research suggested that iOS accounts for 65% of all mobile Web traffic in the US and interestingly that share has changed very little in the last two years.

If we jump back to Distimo’s report it’s no real surprise to find that the US is by far the biggest app market in terms of revenue generated. The second biggest market is Japan, where Apple has actually grown even more popular than in the States with a 36.6% share of the market, according to Bloomberg, after Apple struck a deal with NTT Docomo, the biggest carrier in Japan, to sell the iPhone.

The third biggest market, South Korea, bucks the trend as it is completely dominated by Samsung, but moving on to the fourth most lucrative market, the UK, we find that iOS claims a 30.2% share.

Apple’s iOS platform has a bigger share of the most lucrative markets, the countries where people spend more time online generally and where they spend more money on apps.


Looking for reasons

There are actually a lot of drivers for this data. For a start, Android is found on a wide variety of budget smartphones. These smartphones are far more likely to serve as feature phone replacements and entry-level devices. Apple doesn’t do budget. People buying budget phones will generally have less disposable income. If we compared just high-end Android smartphones and iOS we would find the gap in revenue closing.

Despite Google taking steps to combat it there is also a fragmentation issue with Android that is far more severe than on iOS. Developers only have to develop for a handful of devices on iOS, whereas Android offers all kinds of hardware and software permutations. That makes it easier to create a polished experience on iOS. We also weigh in the fact that Apple separated iPhone and iPad apps. On Android you can buy an app and use it on your smartphone or tablet, on iOS you often have to buy one for each. That adds up to more profit and it also allows for more optimization and polish, though it’s becoming less relevant as the freemium model takes over.

Ultimately the fundamental reason behind this comes down to the difference between Apple and Google. For Apple the hardware business and eco-system is a seamless profit making machine. Apple is only pursuing the premium end of the market. For Google the important thing is to get as many people as possible using its services because that generates the data Google needs to lead the world in online advertising. Market share is the most important metric for Google, while Apple chases the profit.

Category: Mobile and video games trends

About Simon Hill

Simon is an experienced freelance technology journalist covering mobile technology, software, and videogames for a wide variety of clients in print and online. He regularly contributes to Digital Trends, Tech Radar, and Android Authority, and he ghostwrites for CEOs in the technology space. After completing a Masters in Scottish History at Edinburgh University, he began his career as a games tester, progressing to lead tester, game designer, and finally producer, before leaving the industry to write full time. He is passionate about the potential for good software and hardware to improve our lives, and strongly believes that thorough testing is a vital prerequisite for greatness.